Motorcycle rider killed on Hwy 80 was off-duty San Pablo police officer

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A San Pablo Police officer, killed off-duty riding his motorcycle, is described as "irreplaceable" by his department. 53-year-old William "Ken" Zink died Thursday morning on his way to work, when his Harley Davidson, traveling between lanes, collided with another vehicle on Interstate 80 in Vallejo.

Zink fell into the path of a big rig and was killed instantly.

"It's a very difficult thing to happen and the way it happened makes it even worse," Mayor Rich Kinney told KTVU, outside the police station.

"It's really a hard, devastating loss to all of us," Kinney added, "and we've had a slow day, deliberately, to give people time to process this."

Zink was the school resource officer at Helms Middle School, where grief counselors consoled staff and students throughout the day.

"He loved everyone here, and he was loved back," principal Jessica Petrilli told KTVU, "and he told me this was his favorite job he ever had in his life."

During a law enforcement career that spanned 6 years with the El Cerrito Police Department, and 9 with San Pablo P.D, Zink won many honors as a detective.

But those who knew him, said he had a rare affinity for children.

On his own time, he took students to Oakland A's games on the weekends, and he went to their homes to help in times of trouble.  

"He was a rock for them, helping them bridge with their families, when there were problems, helping them at school when they can't concentrate," explained Petrilli.

One 8th grader offered her experience.

"Every day, he used to ask me, are you okay?", said Elizabeth Portillo, "and he used to support me and tell me what I should do."

Flags were lowered at San Pablo City Hall and Police Headquarters, where bouquets surround an easel holding photos of Zink.     

"Just to see his impact with the kids, how they connect with him, and the activities they did together, just incredible," said the mayor solemnly.

The chief and her command staff spent the day with Zink's family in Dixon, where he lives.

He is a father of seven, and had a career as a Coast Guard officer before entering law enforcement.

"We worked hand in hand on campus, to try to help kids make good decisions," colleague Gonzalo Rucobo told KTVU.

Rucobo does anti-violence work on school campuses, as part of the Bay Area Peacekeepers organization.

"When a kid would get into trouble, he wasn't there to punish them, but walk them through the process of change," he explained, "and just an amazing man "

Rucobo also rides a motorcycle, and hopes the tragedy will caution drivers to be more aware of motorcycles.

"Once a Harley goes down, heavy as it is, you're going with it," he observed, " and I'm definitely going to be a lot more careful lane-splitting. It's dangerous out there."

Students at Helms have already asked if September 29th can become "Officer Zink Day."

Principal Petrilli treasures a snapshot on her desk that shows herself and Zink at a Star Wars theme awards night last year.

Zink is dressed as Obi wan Kenobi and smiling broadly.

"Almost everyone told me, they just talked to him yesterday. It's amazing how many people he talked to yesterday," Petrilli said sadly, "but I believe it, that he did. Because he checked in with everyone. He knew us all by name. He was incredible."

The San Pablo Police Employee's Association has set up a Gofundme account for Ken's family: